Grevillea baileyana

white oak


Grevillea baileyana

McGill. 1986

pronounced: grev-ILL-ee-uh bay-lee-AH-nuh

(Proteaceae — the waratah family)


common names: white oak, brown silky oak

native 4Grevillea is named for Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks, and one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society; baileyana is for Frederick Manson Bailey (1827-1915), son of John Bailey, an English immigrant to South Australia who was appointed Colonial Botanist there. It was Charles who first collected the White Oak near the Johnstone River in North Queensland in 1886, and named it Kermadecia pinnatifida. When it was later reclassified within the genus Grevillea, the new scientific name of Grevillea pinnatifida was found to be illegitimate (having been used for a different plant in 1843), and botanist Donald McGillivray renamed it in 1986 in honour of Bailey.

This is a medium to large tree, usually to about 10 m but occasionally to 30 m, occurring naturally in the rainforests and rainforest margins of north-eastern Queensland in the McIlwraith Range and around Coen, and on the east coast from about Cooktown to Ingham, generally on granite-based soils. It also occurs on the southern coast of PNG.

Its bark is grey, hard, and sometimes scaly. The leaves, which grow up to about 30 cm in length, are a rich green, with the underside of new growth having a rusty or bronze sheen. These leaves were incorporated into the bouquets presented to medal winners at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Juvenile leaves are pinnatifid, with up to 9 lanceolate lobes on each side of the leaf, while the adult leaves are a simple lanceolate shape, up to about 6 cm wide, occasionally to 10 cm. They are a shiny smooth green above, with a conspicuous midrib, and covered in rust-coloured fur below. The flowers are borne in tight, clustered racemes between August and December, greenish in bud and white to cream when mature. Their nectar has a strong sweet smell, which is very attractive to insects and nectar-eating birds.

The fruits are about 12-  14 mm by 8 mm in size, producing seeds that, together with the wing, are just a little smaller than the whole fruit.
Although not as highly prized as its cousin the Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta), this tree yields an attractive dense, heavy timber, often used for doors and other structures that need strength and durability. The white or pinkish grained wood can be used in wood-turning or cabinet-making.

The fragrant flowerheads and attractive foliage make this a good garden tree, especially in tropical regions, although the roots can be invasive.

Propagation is from fresh seed, and gardeners have also had some success from cuttings of juvenile growth. Once the tree is established, it is very hardy, but in unsheltered situations it is prone to loss of limbs in high winds.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2012
Page last updated 7th January 2019